By Seth Daniel
Things seemed grim when Sen. Ed Markey appeared in the South End’s Boston Healthcare for the Homeless just before Thanksgiving to make a last-ditch call for the Senate to approve $1 billion in funding for expanded opiate recovery services.
He implored Congress to act, and said its was likely the last chance Massachusetts and the South End would get for expanded federal recovery money.
That press conference seemed to be the elbow grease that got things moving.
Earlier this month, the 21st Century Cure’s Act passed the Senate, and President Barack Obama signed it into law a week later – with Markey and Obama noting that $1 billion over two years would be included as funding for opiate recovery and treatment efforts over the next two years.
“Our communities are being devastated by opioid addiction and overdoses across the country, and the funding in this legislation will be the help they need to save lives right now,” said Markey. “This funding will provide hope to the individuals and families suffering with addiction in Massachusetts who cannot find a bed for detox or a provider for long-term treatment and recovery. Last year, I introduced legislation to increase funding for states by more than $1 billion to expand opioid treatment and recovery services and get help to those who need it most, and I am pleased that Congress is finally responding with financial resources to the greatest public health crisis facing our nation.”
This week, grant applications have become available to state agencies applying for $485 million available next year in up to 59 awards. Those awards would go directly to state agencies who win the grants, and there would be a second round of $485 million the following year as well.
The grants would be distributed through the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) and Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP).
According to the grant applications, which are just now ready for completion, “the program aims to address the opioid crisis by increasing access to treatment, reducing unmet treatment need, and reducing opioid overdose related deaths through the provision of prevention, treatment and recovery activities for opioid use disorder (OUD) (including prescription opioids as well as illicit drugs such as heroin). These grants will be awarded to states and territories via formula based on unmet need for opioid use disorder treatment and drug poisoning deaths.”
President Obama, upon signing the legislation, said he had called for the funding in his 2016 State of the Union address.
“This legislation is going to combat the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic that is ravaging too many families across the country,” he said. “This is an epidemic that can touch anybody blue collar, white collar, college students, retirees, kids, moms, dads. I’ve had the chance to meet people from every stage of recovery who are working hard to sustain the progress that they’re making. And I’ve met parents…who have worked tirelessly to help a child struggling with addiction.
“I could not be prouder that this legislation takes up the charge I laid out in my budget to provide $1 billion in funding so that Americans who want treatment can get started on the path to recovery and don’t have to drive six hours to do it,” he continued. “It is the right thing to do, and families are ready for the support.”
Grant application funding awards will be announced in the first part of the year, with money becoming available in Fiscal Year 2017.